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Tassie salmon linked to two listeria deaths

Three cases of listeria infections across Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales are being investigated by the Department of Health following the deaths of two people.

Two elderly people from NSW and Victoria died after becoming infected with the bacteria which the Department suspects is linked to smoked salmon.

Tasmania’s Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett said salmon products from the state were linked to the cases.

“The evidence that I’ve been provided from the department is that apparently that is the case,” he said.

The state’s three biggest salmon producers, which are Tassal, Huon Aquaculture and Petuna, have been cleared of any food safety breaches after an investigation by the state primary industries department.

“The three major producers all have appropriate food safety programs in place specific to the seafood industry. This includes listeria management,” department chief inspector of primary produce safety Chris Lyall said.

In a statement, Tassal said it was not aware of any evidence linking their companies to the infections.

A Huon Aquaculture statement said the company’s cold smoked salmon products were recently tested by health authorities and no positive results for listeria were recorded.

Listeriosis is usually caused by eating food contaminated by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. While most people who are exposed to Listeria will only develop mild symptoms, illness can be severe in those most at-risk.

Last year an outbreak of listeria in rockmelons resulted in the deaths of several people in Australia. In July 2018, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reported that the rockmelon listeria crisis cost the industry about $60 million because growers couldn’t sell their fruit.

Listeria infection starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea and can start to appear within a few days or in some cases a number of weeks after consuming a contaminated product.

The Australian Government Department of Health said that the recent cases occurred in people over the age of 70 who all had significant underlying health conditions.

All cases that are believed to be linked to smoked salmon from Tasmania, occurred between February 22 and June 7.

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